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PLEADINGS ARE CLOSED WHEN PARTIES JOIN ISSUES – REPLY MAY BE UNNECESSARY

Dictum

Pleadings are closed when parties join issues in a case. Where both the statement of claim and the statement of defence do not bring the parties to issue on all the claims, the plaintiff shall file a reply. However, where no counter-claim is filed, further pleadings by way of reply to a statement of defence is unnecessary if the sole purpose is to deny the averments in the statement of defence. SeeIshola v. S.G.B. (Nig.) Ltd. (1997) 2 NWLR (Pt. 488) 405 SC. In Egesumba v. Onuzuryike (2002) 15 NWLR (Pt.791) 466 at 499 Ayoola JSC, expatiated thus “Where, of course, the plaintiff seeks to contradict the allegations in the statement of defence not merely by traverse but by raising issues of fact which would take the defendant by surprise, he should raise such issues by a reply. But, even then, the consequence of his not so raising it is not that he is taken to have admitted the truth of the allegations of fact in the statement of defence so as to free the defendant from the obligation to lead evidence in proof of what he alleges, but to deprive the plaintiff from adducing evidence of facts not pleaded or already raised by the pleadings as they stand. Tobi JSC at p. 519 of the report also clarified that:- “(iv) In order to allow a party to file a reply the trial Court must be satisfied that both the statement of claim and the statement of defence filed by the parties have not, when read together, sufficiently disclosed and fixed the real issues between the parties and that further pleadings in the reply to be filed will achieve the purpose of bringing the parties to an issue.”

— T. Akomolafe-Wilson, JCA. Alabi v Audu (2017) – CA/A/494/2014

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FAILURE TO PLEAD RELEVANT FACTS DEFEATS THE CLAIM

Pleadings just like other civil claims is a prerequisite to the establishment of a claim and in this case negligence. Failure to plead relevant facts would automatically defeat the claim. The Respondent failed to do the needful and therefore did not merit to have judgment, I therefore agree with my brother that the appeal is meritorious and succeeds.

– Nimpar JCA. Diamond Bank v. Mocok (2019)

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RATIONALE BEHIND PLEADINGS

The basic law is that parties are bound to plead all facts they intend to rely upon at the trial and facts not pleaded will go to no issue. One rationale behind this principle is that litigation must follow some restrictive order and not open-ended in order to save the time of both the Courts and the litigants. If the procedure of pleadings was not introduced in litigation, parties search for evidence could not have ended and that should have protracted litigation beyond expectation. The law simply put, is that litigation is fought on pleadings. The pleadings define the parameters of the case and they give notice of the case to the other party. Any evidence led must be within the circumference of the facts pleaded. Pleadings in that wise, must not be deficient of the facts required to build up the case.

— S.J. Adah, JCA. Luck Guard v. Adariku (2022) – CA/A/1061/2020

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MATERIAL FACTS ARE WHAT ARE PLEADED NOT EVIDENCE

It is a trite and a resonated principle of our legal jurisprudence, that you plead material facts and not the evidence to be relied upon and the evidence to be relied upon can be tendered in support of those facts.

— A. Osadebay, J. APC v INEC & Ors. (EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023, 20th Day of September, 2023)

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THE COURT AND PARTIES ARE BOUND BY THE PLEADINGS

I have to state from the onset that it is settled law that issues for trial are joined in the pleadings and that parties and indeed the court are bound by the pleadings of the parties.

— Onnoghen, JSC. Kubor v. Dickson (2012) – SC.369/2012

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AMENDMENT OF PLEADINGS – TECHNICAL JUSTICE – SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE

With due deference to learned counsel for the appellants, the aim of amending pleadings in general is to enable the court to decide the rights of the parties, and not to punish them for mistakes made in the conduct of their cases by deciding otherwise than in accordance with their rights. The age of technicalities is now history. Substantial justice is the order of the day. So it is either you get moving on the train of justice or you get left behind, with the necklace of technicalities wrapped around your neck to keep you warm company or, on the other hand, to choke you.

– SANKEY, J.C.A, Awure v. Iledu (2007)

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COURT TO DETERMINE CASE BASED ON THE PLEADINGS

There is no gainsaying the settled principle of law to the effect that the Court is bound to determine the case before it, as made out by the pleadings of the parties, particularly the Claimant’s or Plaintiff’s cause of action.

– Tukur JCA. Odulate v. FBN (2019)

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